It seems incredible that the attacks of 9/11 happened twenty-two years ago. That’s a whole generation who know it only as a significant historical event but didn’t live through the grim reality of it.
We must never forget the sacrifice of all the emergency responders who ran to lend aid. And we must also honor the courage of the crew and passengers on those flights who tried to avert the tragedy.
I don’t feel it has been that long since I witnessed the attacks on television, unable to believe my eyes. On that terrible day, I was in New Orleans, attending the Air Carriers Purchasing Conference. Hundreds of representatives from airlines and aviation industry suppliers were gathered there. We were all in shock but united to support each other through the day and in the aftermath of it.
Aviation Changed and Recovered
The attacks of 9/11 changed the skies, leading to additional security measures at airports and on aircraft. We used to accompany family members on their flight out, walking them through the terminal and hugging them before boarding. That’s a personal touch we’ve lost, replaced instead by stress-inducing security checks.
Flying is more stressful than it was before 2001, and that may, in part, explain the rise of unruly passenger behavior. I worry that it’s more a matter of people taking aviation for granted. It’s a credit to all the industry worldwide that aviation is a safe and reliable form of transport. Airlines have made big investments to make passengers feel at home in the skies. But, as a result, some people may forget that they are not actually in their living rooms.
The aviation industry ultimately recovered from the 9/11 attacks, just as they are beginning to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Aviation is as resilient as it is essential. That is why we must ensure it is sustainable for future generations.
The next twenty-two years will determine whether flying remains a convenient form of transport for many or whether it is limited once again to a privileged few. I know where I stand on this: the democratization of air travel is one of the greatest achievements of the last century. It would be foolish not to support sustainable aviation going forward into the next.